Part 16: A Druid, a Shaman and a Mage go into a pub

Ellandriel opened her eyes, and looked round. It was bright and sunny. She could smell smoke, and more importantly, bacon frying. Mareva and Ariciel were sitting down by the campfire. Mareva was taking bits of bacon from the frying pan with two sticks, and Ariciel was sitting bare-legged by the fire, mending her leather armour. Ariciel’s eyes fell on her.

“Hey look. Someone has finished her beauty sleep.” Ariciel grinned. “Early.”

“And just in time for second breakfast,” said Mareva.

Ellandriel shook her head, not in the mood for sharp answers. She got out of the sleeping furs, and only now realised that she was wearing only her underwear. She looked round for her clothes and found them folded up under the furs. She held them up to the light. They definitely looked a bit worse for wear.

“We didn’t fix them,” said Ariciel. “Didn’t want to mess up the enchantments. Also, we’re not your servants.”

Ellandriel let that slide. “I can do it myself, if someone can lend me a needle and some thread.”

“My goodness,” said Ariciel. “They let you do that?”

Ellandriel gave Ariciel a vague smile. “There seems to be this rumour that those of High Birth spoil their illegitimate children rotten. I assure you, our elders are far too self-centered to waste precious resources on anyone but themselves. I am quite looking forward to that, actually.”

“Have some fried bacon,” said Mareva. “I offer you this not out of servitude, but to encourage you to shoot at people who wish me harm.”

“I will cast fire spells for food,” said Ellandriel.

“I am afraid that there is no bread to go with it, but I find that can be remedied simply by adding more bacon.”

Ellandriel accepted a piece of leather from Mareva, with some slices of scorching hot bacon on it. She wondered for a moment why they were being so nice to her, but there was hot food before her, and she must eat it before it got cold. As she took the food, her eye fell on her arm, and she took a short breath. Her forearm was not the shape it had always been. The cut in her forearm had left a dark scar, and if you looked carefully, her arm wasn’t perfectly straight. Her hand shook, and Mareva grabbed the piece of leather to hold it steady.

“I do apologise, Miss Ellandriel, but it was the best I could do. When we are in civilised places, we will visit a proper healer.”

Ellandriel put the plate of bacon in her lap, and ran her fingers along her forearm. It didn’t hurt, but there was a strange lump. She shuddered.

“Without you, and you, Lady Ariciel, I would be dead now.”

Ariciel wet the end of a bit of runethread in her mouth, and looked at Ellandriel.

“Lady who?” said Ariciel, and started to put the thread in her needle.

“Ariciel,” said Ellandriel. “My apologies.”

She raised her hands, palms upwards, and conjured up a few mana cakes. She handed them out to Mareva and Ariciel. Ariciel took a small nibble of the edge.

“What are they made of?”

“The Light,” said Ellandriel. “Eat them before they dissolve. They are meant to replenish a Mage’s mana between jobs.”

Mareva tasted a bit, went ‘Hm’, sliced it in two with her knife and put a few slices of bacon in. Ellandriel stared. In all the months she’d conjured up this bread, it simply hadn’t occurred to her to put anything on it. She was divided between calling it blasphemy and wondering whether the combination of sweet and salty would be a good one. She tried it. Not bad.

They broke camp. Ariciel and Mareva decided that enough was enough, and that they would ride the rest of the way. Ariciel summoned a cat. Mareva summoned a very large riding beast. Ellandriel had to confess, with red cheeks, that she didn’t have a mount. Mareva reached down, and pulled her up behind her.

“Rise up, please,” said Mareva.

“Pardon me?”

“You are sitting on my tail.”

Ellandriel quickly raised herself, muttering apologies. Mareva grinned at her over her shoulder.

“You gently push it to one side. To the left if you wish to stay on top.”

“What do you m-” Ellandriel swallowed the rest of her question, and her cheeks turned dark. Then, she sneered, flicked Mareva’s tail to the left and sat down.

“Rrrr,” said Mareva, and kicked her elekk into motion. Ellandriel put her arms round Mareva’s waist, and glanced at Ariciel, who had her eyes closed and was trying not to fall off her cat laughing.

Horrible women.

“You’re turning into quite the favourite, mate,” said the Goblin. He was counting out Stetson’s winnings without even looking at his fingers, gold, silver, coppers. “You’re becoming the safe bet. Twelve-to-one on you losing.”

“Good,” said Stetson.

He’d just fought another Draenei, a frost mage who’d managed to keep him and his Warpstalker from moving for an uncomfortably long time before Stetson managed to throw a freezing trap almost underneath his feet, and stick him full of arrows while he tried to get out of it.

“I’m doing you a favour giving you two-to-one, you know.”

“Truly, you overflow with the milk of Goblin kindness,” said Stetson.

“Don’t sweat it,” said the Goblin with a grin. “Odds are strange things. When you finally do lose, you’re going to make me rich.”

“How so?”

“Lots of people are betting on you. Practically nobody is betting on you to lose. When you finally do, I get to keep the pot.” The Goblin’s yellow eyes gleamed at Stetson. “And it’s a big pot.”

“You make more money from my fights than I do,” said Stetson, darkly.

“Only fair, Friend,” said the Goblin. “If not for us, where would you be? Busting your blue tail running errands for everybody. Anyway, if it bothers you…” The Goblin motioned Stetson closer with a long-nailed finger. “If I had some way of knowing when you were going to lose, then I could prepare myself for it. Set the odds appropriately. And then I might… might be persuaded to share some of my winnings with you.”

“Throw a fight, you mean? That will make several hundred people quite annoyed with me. At a time when I will already be wounded.”

“Oh come on. Last time I checked you were blue, not yellow.”

“Money is only any good if you are alive to spend it. That is the voice of reason.”

“Sure,” said the Goblin. “Here you are. Fifty gold, twenty silver.” He bent over to Stetson and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Give me the right word at the right time, and you could get enough for a flying mount, and a whole night alone with Miss Hira Snowdawn.”

“I can see how that might be attractive, but a hot and steamy night discussing the finer points of flying is similar to a stack of money, in that one needs to be alive in order to enjoy it. Good day to you.”

“My friends,” said Mareva, “That shaft of light ahead of us is made by the Naaru A’dal. We have reached Shattrath!”

Ariciel looked round nervously, but the large group of enemies somehow failed to descend on them. Outlanders clearly lacked all sense of drama. Ellandriel looked ahead, over Mareva’s shoulder.

“I can see Draenei women mounted on…”

“Elekks,” said Mareva. “And what is more, they are real elekks, not like this magical construct.” Mine disappears when I get off. These ones will fight for their masters.”

“They look fierce,” said Ariciel.

“They are,” said Mareva. “Furthermore, they lack all sense of humour. If we are stopped, I will do the talking.”

As it happened, two Night-elves and a Draenei did not look like they would be assaulting the city on their own. Mareva led her elekk through the tunnel to Lower City. Several beggars walked up to them, hands outstretched. Ariciel and Mareva looked straight ahead, not meeting their eyes, but Ellandriel reached into her purse and threw them a few coins.

“Thieves and cutpurses,” muttered Mareva.

“Well, they have no money, and they are begging, not stealing,” said Ellandriel. “We must be kind to those less fortunate.”

“Let them hunt, and sell the meat,” said Mareva. “Or gather fire-wood. Every copper I ever had, I worked for.”

“They are fugitives,” said Ellandriel. “If they would set foot outside the city, the lands would devour them. Were you robbed of all your powers, would you not wish for a few coppers to fill your stomach?” Ellandriel looked ahead. “We cannot all conjure food and water out of thin air.”

“That may be true,” said Mareva, “but there is always something you can do. They are expecting the world to feed them for nothing in return.”

“I don’t think they even think that far,” said Ellandriel. “All these paupers know is that they are hungry.”

“Many people are hungry,” said Mareva. “You cannot feed them all.”

“That is true, but I can at least provide a few of them with a few decent meals. It warms my heart to know that some people will not go hungry because of me.”

“Give a man a fish, and he will be fed for a day. Give him an electric eel, fully charged, and you will not see him again.”

“That, Lady Mareva, is not a nice thing to say.”

“I agree, it is not. It is a variation on an old Draenei saying. The original goes: Teach him to fish, and he will be fed for his whole life. The point is that giving alms to the poor on anything but a regular basis, is not a sustainable solution. It merely serves to make us feel better about ourselves. That man will be hungry again two days from now. If you truly wish him to be fed, do not give him alms. Employ him.”

Ariciel, who rode a few steps ahead, looked over her shoulder. “Just as a question. How much did you give them?”

Ellandriel shrugged. “I did not count the coins. Three or four silver perhaps.”


Ariciel rode on, a slight smile on her face. Ellandriel blinked, not understanding.

“Why do you ask?”

“When I was working in Ameth’Aran, I earned four silver a month.”

They rode though the outskirts of Lower City. Mareva fell silent, looking straight ahead of her. She spurred on her elekk, and didn’t speak till they reached the bridge leading to the elevator that took travellers up to the Terrace of Light. Mareva brighened up visibly.

“Ah. There is the elevator. We ride it, then we turn left, and then we find…”

“An inn,” said Ariciel.

“Yes,” said Mareva. She looked over her shoulder at Ellandriel. “I am not a lush, honestly. You do not think I am a lush, do you?”

“I would not presume to say such a thing from the time I have known you, Lady Mareva.”


“When we reach the tavern, then I will give you the benefit of my opinion.”

They rode up the elevator, and into a large square. Mareva remembered the rows upon rows of soldiers she had seen departing from this place. No way of telling how many of them had ever returned.

Minalei’s small tavern was at the edge of the square, close enough to the edge to look down on the Scryers’ Tier a little way off. Minalei was an old acquaintance of Mareva’s, having sailed with her on board Exodar. She grinned broadly at Mareva when they came walking in.

Gde tvoi bol’shoi okhotnik?

“He is in Northrend, chasing Death Knights,” said Mareva.

“And you need two Night-elves to replace him? My goodness, I am jealous.”

“Yes. Most amusing,” said Mareva. She continued in Common. “Allow me to introduce my friends, Ariciel and Ellandriel.”

Minalei bowed her head at the Elf girls, and spoke those most welcome of words.

“What can I offer you?”

“Mead if you have it,” said Ariciel. “Food, and beds for the night, please.”

They had eaten. They had bottles of drink nearby, and were about ready to turn in, but too restless for a while to do so. Mareva sat at the head end of the bed. Ariciel had kicked off her boots and lay across the bed with her head in Mareva’s lap. Her eyes were closed. Ellandriel stood in front of a bookcase, head tilted sideways, trying to read the titles of the books. Most of them were in Draenei, which Ellandriel couldn’t read. There were none at all in Darnassian, and given that the few Common titles had words in them like ‘Passion’, ‘Scandalous’, or ‘Marriage’, and pictures of bare-chested Humans with smouldering females embracing them on the front, she didn’t think she was missing much by not knowing Draenei. She lay down on the bed one over from Mareva’s, and poured herself another glass of wine. Once you open a bottle, it won’t keep. She looked over. Mareva’s hand was on Ariciel’s stomach.

“Your search for worthwhile literature has proven fruitless?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Ellandriel. “I cannot speak for the volumes in Draenei, of course.”

Mareva laughed. “They are most probably a fine example of Draenei literature. From these pages, you can learn precisely what to do with a girl’s tail before you ravish her.”

Ellandriel took a sip of wine. “Were I inclined to ravish Draenei girls, then I would no doubt spend many an hour here. Social missteps in the bedroom must be avoided at all costs.”

“Just so,” said Mareva.

Ellandriel looked into Mareva’s eyes. “I do apologise for my words earlier, in Terrokkar forest. I spoke in anger, and out of place.”

“I have been called worse than ‘Lady of the Night’,” said Mareva. “Do not worry.”

“You said you were on a long dull trip. Were you on a ship?”

“I was an engineer on Exodar. There was something wrong with the trans-dimensional drive and we had to travel for a year in normal space.”

“Normal space? What do you mean?”

Ariciel kept her eyes shut. “She says things like that. Just smile and nod.”

“Our poor Exodar had two modes of flight. One of them was by mass reaction engines. They are suitable for maneuvering inside a solar system, but we would greatly upset Prophet Ha’aakin if we broke the speed of light using them. So if we have a long distance to travel, we use the trans-dimensional engines. They shift all of Exodar into an alternate dimension, which you call the ‘Twisting Nethers’. There, things like time, distance and speed become essentially meaningless.”

Ariciel opened her eyes and sat up. “Now you’ve set her off. Is there any more mead?”

Mareva snorted. “There is, unless you have drunk it all.”

“Travel between the stars,” said Ellandriel. “I never even thought of the stars as being far away, before I came here. They are simply there, like the Moon.”

“The moon is not that far away, comparatively speaking. My elekk could run to the moon in two and a half years if it had a path to follow.”

Ellandriel slowly ran her fingers over the bump in her arm. “How do you even know that?”

“Triangulation. You take bearings on the object you wish to measure from two sides, and from the angles and the distance between the measured points, you can work out how far away your object is.”

“But…” Ellandriel gave Mareva a thoughtful look. “These distances are so huge, that the lines must be almost parallel, even if you measure from one end of Azeroth to the other.”

“That is why you do not do it like that. You take one measurement now, and one half a year later. That way, you have Azeroth’s entire orbit to work with. It would still require the most precise equipment, which is sadly not invented in Azeroth yet. It works for objects up to about four-hundred light-years away.”

“Do you mean to say that the Draenei can measure objects even further away?”

“We can,” said Mareva. “Using a spectrometer, you can precisely measure the colour of a star’s light. From that, you can work out what kind of star it is, and consequently, how bright it should shine. You then measure the brightness, and from that you can work out the distance. Space-borne spectrometers, though, are even more advanced than astrolabes. Of course, the Naaru can simply project their minds onto the object they are interested in, and know how far away it is. Which I feel is most unfair.”

Ariciel looked at Ellandriel’s face, which mixed the blank stare people commonly had when Mareva explained something, and a certain kind of… hunger.

“Keep going,” said Ariciel. “I think you’re turning her on.”

Ellandriel gave Ariciel a Look, then turned back to Mareva.

“Travelling between the stars. I cannot imagine what that must be like.”

“Once you get over the initial excitement, it is exceedingly dull. Which is why we had to make our own entertainment. Using minimal equipment.”

Ellandriel looked at Mareva. Mareva looked back at her with a wicked glint in her eyes.

“Surely… There were things to do besides, um, that?”

“There were. There were a few dozen clubs. Our chief engineer is quite a chess player. There were mathematics clubs. The Zealots of Hut, praised be, were fun. I was in the Deviants. We were in search of the ultimate sexual pleasure.”

“Um. Did you find it?” Ellandriel thought it only polite to ask.

“I earned thirteen hundred and four points,” said Mareva. “None of us cared.”

“In a year, that is almost… four points per day!”

“Including style points,” said Mareva. “Being inventive helped much.”

Ariciel looked at the canopy above the four poster bed, and said nothing.

Mareva sighed. “Viral and I were in the Deviants together. We used to compare notes before going to sleep. If anyone would press me on the ultimate pleasure, then waking up next to someone you love would be high on the list.”

“I second that,” said Ariciel. “My big lug of a Human is all I need to feel warm.”

Human?” Ellandriel said it before she could stop herself.

Ariciel grinned. “Warmly recommended.”

“But… can they even…?”

“Oh yes. Able and willing. Try one. Be prepared for some bruises if you pick a warrior. So now you know all about us, how about you? Do the High-borne have such mundane things as love-lives?”

Ellandriel drained her glass and put it on the side table. “Light bless me, do you presume me to be a virgin? Though compared to yours, my exploits are not nearly as exotic.” Her eyes softened with memories. “The strangest thing I can claim is that one of my lovers liked to lick my toes, as a way of enhancing the desire.”

“Nobody has ever done that for me,” said Mareva, sadly.

“It is not a great loss. I found it faintly disgusting, and it tickles in a most…” Ellandriel’s eyes fell on Mareva’s bare legs. “Ah.”

Ariciel laughed, then bent over towards Ellandriel. “I will simply mention the word ‘tail’, and leave it at that.”

“For that, I am most grateful to you,” said Ellandriel.

Mareva poked a sharp finger into Ariciel’s stomach. “Were you travelling alone? That seems dull to me, as well as dangerous.”

Ellandriel’s breath shivered. She shook her head. “I was travelling with my Teacher. We were attacked by a monster made of fel metal. Shan’do died defending me.”

Mareva reached over and touched Ellandriel’s arm. “I am very sory to hear that, Miss Ellandriel. Were the two of you close?”

“Closer than I have been with many Elves, though not lovers if that is what you mean. Shan’do’s last order to me was to find my way to Shattrath City, and then on to Dalaran in Northrend. I will have to learn the way there tomorrow.”

“Back through the Dark Portal, flight to Menethil, and there take the steamer to Valgarde,” said Ariciel. “But… hang on. You are a mage.”

“Yes. Why?”

“Can’t you do portals? Most mages I know can do portals to most of the capital cities.”

Ellandriel looked sadly at Ariciel. “I would not be welcome in most of them. I never learnt the skill. The Portal Masters would not let me attune myself to the markers in those cities.”

“Don’t be so sure. There should be a portal trainer here. Ask them. All they can do is say no.”

Mareva got to her hooves. “Even if they do say no, then we can always find you a mage who can. I know at least one, though her personality is somewhat turbulent. I just remembered I have not checked my mail. I must see if my hunter friend has been successful in finding either his brother or another one of my Deviant rivals.”

She sniffed, and walked out of the door. Ellandriel looked at her tail disappearing.

“I must admit, I do not quite understand the nature of your relationship.”

Ariciel lay back on the bed, looking up, then glanced at Ellandriel.

“I love her,” she said, simply. “I love her like a sister I never knew I had. I have lost all my blood-relatives. The Manor, and its people don’t exist anymore. She and Bannog are my family now.”

“Sister? I thought you were, um…”

Ariciel laughed quietly, putting her hands behind her head. “Sometimes, the day has been long, dreary and horrible, and the Light shines brightly in every place but the place where we are. So we do things that you wouldn’t do with your blood-sister. We’re really not in each other’s arms at every opportunity, but yes. We are ‘Um’. We know what the other looks and feels like naked.”

Ellandriel sighed. “I was born in Eldre’thalas. My parents left soon after I was born, and I was raised with my fellow students, by the Elders. They loved us, cared for us, fed us. But they were never mine. I never consciously saw my parents. Why they left, I do not know, nor do I know if they are dead or alive.” She looked at Ariciel’s face. “My mother was named Lanóriel Iressa of Athalaxx. You… may have met her.”

Ariciel suddenly felt like she was walking on eggs. “I knew a lady Iressa in Ameth’aran. She wanted me to become a mage and aid her with great spells. I said no. I believe she was lost in the accident that destroyed the Manor. No telling if it was her.”

“Were you to describe her in minute detail, It would not help me. I never knew her.”

“My mother is dead,” said Ariciel. “She suffered a great deal at the hands of the Horde before she died by her own hand. Whether you are better off, or I am, I really can’t say.”

The door opened and Mareva came walking in, a letter in her hand.

“Hunter S’dezo’houn is in hospital in Dalaran. The search for his brother has had a distinctly sub-optimal result. Miss Ellandriel, if you were thinking of travelling to Dalaran, I would be happy to join you there.” She looked into Ariciel’s eyes. “I do not know whether we are ready, but… I must go.”

“There’s three of us,” said Ariciel. “I’m game if you are. Besides, I’m not letting you alone with her.”

Mareva sat down on the bed, shaking, not even rising to the bait. “Recovering from the after-effects. What sort of an idiot does he think I am?”

In the cheap room in the Under-belly of Dalaran, Stetson counted out his money. He had enough for a fast gryphon. Almost enough for the flying lessons. Trainer Hira Snowdawn did not offer these cheaply. He could, of course, simply take the flight back to Valiance Keep, and then take the ferry back to Stormwind. But he would have to find Mareva in the wilderness of Draenor. For that, he needed flight. Stetson took a deep breath. No matter how many times he counted it, he still came up short. He made some mental calculations. Three more fights, perhaps four. If, of course, he won them all. He put the money back in the pouch on his belt, walked to the bed. He lay down with his back to the wall, and closed his eyes.


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